December 2014 Conference Board Employment Index Improves and the Rate of Growth Accelerates Slightly
Written by Steven Hansen
The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index – which forecasts employment for the next 6 months – again strengthened. The index has improved now for 12 months. However, the rate of growth improved this month.
The Conference Board believes future employment growth will likely be solid in the coming months – but Econintersect‘s own employment index is saying that economic pressures are continuing to grow but also is forecasting a slight deceleration in the employment growth rate within the next six months.
From the Conference Board:
This month's release incorporates annual revisions of standardization factors to the Employment Trends Index, which bring it up to date with revisions in the source data. Also, with this benchmark revision, the base year of the composite index was changed to 2010 = 100 from 1996 = 100. These revisions do not change the cyclical properties of the index. The standardization factors known as volatility adjustment factors are done by calculating the standard deviation of the monthly percent change in each component. The period used for calculating the standardization factors begins in November 1973 and ends at December 2013. The standardization factors are then used to construct the index from November 1973 to present. As a result, the revised index, in levels and month-on-month changes, will not be directly comparable to those issued prior to this annual revision.
The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased in December. The index now stands at 128.43, up from 127.83 in November. This represents a 7.5 percent gain in the ETI compared to a year ago.
“The Employment Trends Index increased in every single month of 2014, capping the year off with strong growth, 2.3 percent, in the final quarter,” said Gad Levanon, Managing Director of Macroeconomic and Labor Market Research at The Conference Board. “The strengthening in the ETI suggests that rapid job growth is likely to continue throughout the first half of 2015. And as the labor market tightens further, acceleration in wage growth is soon to follow.”
December’s increase in the ETI was driven by positive contributions from six of the eight components. In order from the largest positive contributor to the smallest, these were: Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”, Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, Industrial Production, Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Number of Temporary Employees, and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales.
To add context to this index, the following graph compares BLS non-farm payrolls, the Econintersect Employment Index, and The Conference Board ETI. Econintersect uses non-labor and mostly non-monetary economic pulse points in constructing its index, while The Conference Board uses mostly elements of employment data. Note that the Conference Board says their data is not "directly comparable to those issued prior to this annual revision". I have no clue what dates they are talking about not being comparable (assuming they mean anything prior to December 2013),
Comparing BLS Non-Farm .mployment YoY Improvement (blue line, left axis) with Econintersect Employment Index YoY Improvement (red line, left axis) and The Conference Board ETI YoY Improvement (yellow line, right axis)
The graph above offsets the Conference Board ETI by 5 months. Note that both the Conference Board indices are showing an improving long term trend, whilst the short term trend shows deceleration.
Caveats on the Employment Trends Index
According to the Conference Board:
The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.
The eight labor-market indicators aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:
- Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” (The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey
- Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance (U.S. Department of Labor)
- Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now (© National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation)
- Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Part-Time Workers for Economic Reasons (BLS)
- Job Openings (BLS)
- Industrial Production (Federal Reserve Board)
- Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Unfortunately many of these indices are not accurate in real time being subject to at times significant backward revision.
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